Monday, 28 January 2008

The Day After Pongal

The day dawns bright and clear. Pragati can barely contain her excitement! She wakes up a full hour early, having tossed and turned through the night in a fever of anticipation. The slight January nip in the morning air is welcome. She rushes around the house, her usual routine with the milk and tea and breakfast and email and the newspaper. She lays out her sari for the day, finding and caressing the matching blouse. She goes to the little cupboard on the side and extracts a bright orange paavadai for the child. She is about to turn away when she remembers and opens the drawer and draws out tiny matching bangles and a necklace. Her little daughter would never agree to a paavadai without these accessories! So unlike Pragati, of whom, a close friend had once remarked , ‘Neither beautiful nor beauty-conscious.’ She gives in to a small smile as she recalls how amused she was by that comment, and, to the surprise of her friends, not in the least bit offended!

The clock needles march forward, somewhat slowly but surely. She has her cup of tea sitting at the computer, poring over her emails and updating her blog page with a photo of the child. She replies to a few requests for meetings, saying that she is out of the office in the morning but glad to meet after lunch. Shutting down the computer with a hurried glance at the clock, she steps in for her bath.

While she is in the middle of her shampoo, the child wakes and calls for her. “I am taking a bath” she yells back. “Okay” says the child and proceeds to sing a song to herself, which Pragati joins in, her voice loud under the water. By the time she steps out, the child has found the bangles and is wide-eyed and awake, a million questions coming out of her mouth. Where are we going (out), why the orange paavadai and not the maroon one (because the matching bangles and necklace were easily accessible), why are you wearing this sari (because you are wearing a paavadai), why does the octopus have eight legs (so it can move fast) and so on.

They rush through the morning milk and transactions regarding fruit and potty and bath, all the while pretending to be on a space-ship. The excitement Pragati had felt early in the morning is continuing strongly in the daughter, while the mother just feels a sense of tiredness. The festivities of the previous day, involving the two types of Pongal and the vadai (the eating rather than the making of these things taxes her energy, paradoxically). They peer somewhat quizzically into the fridge where a whole bunch of left-overs lie, the maid-servants having taken the day off, the dishes have remained there, she is not going to deal with this today of all days.

It is still 9 am when they step out of the house all ready in sari and paavadai and flowers in their hair. They skip down to the auto-rickshaw stand and climb in. Pragati feels a renewed excitement now, now that they are so close. She directs the driver and they head off in a cloud of exhaust. The child begins asking questions. Where are we going? (To Ammamma’s house). Why? (Because today is a special festival. Everyone goes to their mother’s house). Why are you so happy? (Because I am going to my mother’s house). Can we do this every year? (Sure! Of course! I wish…). You wish what? (Nothing, it’s a great day, lets enjoy it, no fussing or crying, okay?) Okay Amma, I am really happy, I want to hug you (I want to hug you too…)

4 comments:

choxbox said...

nice story, pragati :)

kbpm said...

oh cb-
well, its a good childhood memory. thankfully i am nowhere close to that situation for various reasons, the primary one being my complete lack of faith in traditions of any sort...but yes, as an objective observer of these things, the day after pongal festival, called Kanu, seems to be created so that women can escape from their married homes to the comfort of their mothers siblings and aunts!!

Laasya said...

kaaki ki kalyanam, kurvi ki shrimantham...

kbpm said...

laasya-
:-)